Bomb-surviving Hazem Naw cracks top-400. Why does it matter?

Hazem Naw is through to his first Challenger quarter-final in Koblenz

by Jovica Ilic
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Bomb-surviving Hazem Naw cracks top-400. Why does it matter?
© Stream screenshot

The 24-year-old Hazem Naw came to the Koblenz Challenger with five qualifying wins. The only Syrian on the ATP ranking list qualified for the main draw and delivered his first Challenger wins to notch a place in the quarter-final.

These points will propel Naw into the top-400, making another significant step while chasing his dream of competing at Majors. Hazem's story is inspiring, growing up in war-plagued Syria but keeping dreaming about becoming a tennis pro.

Naw and his brother moved from Aleppo to Damascus, training on the courts near the Russian embassy that drew constant bomb attacks. Hazem trained once when the bomb exploded near the court, hurting his arm and requiring surgery!

The youngster was back on the court two days later, eager to extend his tennis journey.

Hazem Naw, Koblenz Challenger 2024© Stream screenshot

After living in Lebanon for a while, Naw and his brother moved to Cologne, setting up a new home in Germany.

Hazem gathered experience in the Oberliga and Bundesliga, training with Oscar Otte, his Koblenz Challenger rival! Hazem earned his first ATP point in January 2021 at 21. His first title came at the same event a year later, making constant progress and finishing the 2022 season in the top-700.

Naw enjoyed a great run in 2023, passing more rivals on the ATP ranking list and finding himself in the top-500, setting even higher goals for 2024. The Syrian kicked off the year with the Futures title in Iran before making a name for himself in Koblenz.

Hazem Naw will crack the top-400 next week.

Hazem and Oscar battled for two hours and 20 minutes, and the Syrian prevailed 2-6, 7-6, 6-4, overcoming a slow start and trailing 5-3 in the second set. Hazem pulled the break back, clinched the set in the tie break and came from a break down two times in the decider to emerge at the top.

Thus, he booked a place in the quarter-final and cracked the top-400 for the first time. It was an unusual indoor match, with 30 break points and 15 successful return games, eight for Otte. The German won one point more than his rival, wasting his opportunities and finishing his run in the second round.

The opening set offered 17 break points, with two rivals struggling to impose their strokes behind the initial shot.

Hazem Naw, Koblenz Challenger 2024© Stream screenshot

They squandered seven break points in the opening two games of the encounter before Otte grabbed a break with a smash winner at 2-1 to build the advantage.

The Syrian converted the fifth break chance in the fifth game, pulling the break back and returning to the positive side. However, Oscar clinched two more breaks in games six and eight, wrapping up the opener with a lob winner at 5-2.

They traded breaks at the beginning of the second serve and served well in the next five games, with Otte leading 4-3. Naw netted a routine forehand in the eighth game, losing serve and allowing his opponent to serve for the victory at 5-3.

Oscar failed to seize his chance, hitting a loose forehand in game nine and keeping his rival in contention. The set went into a tie break, and Hazem clinched it 7-3 with a backhand down the line winner, forcing a decider and gaining a boost.

They traded breaks at the start of the final set before Naw secured another return game with a backhand down the line winner for 3-1. Otte fought back, earning breaks in games five and seven and forging a 4-3 lead after Naw's loose forehand.

The Syrian created three break chances in the eighth game with a backhand down the line winner and converted the second for 4-4. Hazem moved 5-4 up with a service winner and placed a perfect drop shot winner in the next one for two match points. Oscar hit a double fault on the first, losing serve and pushing his rival over the top.

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